Israel library unveils Afghan Geniza

 A Geniza or trove of discarded manuscripts found in caves in Afghanistan provides unprecedented evidence of Jewish community life in the region over the centuries, according to the Times of Israel: (with thanks: Lily)

JERUSALEM (AP) — A trove of ancient
manuscripts in Hebrew characters rescued from caves in a Taliban
stronghold in northern Afghanistan is providing the first physical
evidence of a Jewish community that thrived there a thousand years ago.

On Thursday Israel’s National Library unveiled
the cache of recently purchased documents that run the gamut of life
experiences, including biblical commentaries, personal letters and
financial records.

Researchers say the “Afghan Genizah” marks the
greatest such archive found since the “Cairo Genizah” was discovered in
an Egyptian synagogue more than 100 years ago, a vast depository of
medieval manuscripts considered to be among the most valuable
collections of historical documents ever found.

Genizah, a Hebrew term that loosely translates
as “storage,” refers to a storeroom adjacent to a synagogue or Jewish
cemetery where Hebrew-language books and papers are kept. Under Jewish
law, it is forbidden to throw away writings containing the formal names
of God, so they are either buried or stashed away.

The Afghan collection gives an unprecedented
look into the lives of Jews in ancient Persia in the 11th century. The
paper manuscripts, preserved over the centuries by the dry, shady
conditions of the caves, include writings in Hebrew, Aramaic,
Judea-Arabic and the unique Judeo-Persian language from that era, which
was written in Hebrew letters.

“It was the Yiddish of Persian Jews,” said Haggai Ben-Shammai, the library’s academic director.

Holding the documents, protected by a
laminated sheath, Ben-Shammai said they included mentions of distinctly
Jewish names and evidence of their commercial activities along the “Silk
road” connecting Europe and the East. The obscure Judeo-Persian
language, along with carbon dating technology, helped verify the
authenticity of the collection, he said.

“We’ve had many historical sources on Jewish
settlements in that area,” he said. “This is the first time that we have
a large collection of manuscripts that represents the culture of the
Jews that lived there. Until today we had nothing of this.”

Read article in full 

Afghan scrolls could be most significant find yet

Daily Mail article


  • wow! what a complete story. Very fascinating to know we have brothers and sisters everywhere!
    Egypt's Genisa too is very rich But I shall never go back there to see it
    even if very unlikely i couLd go there, they would never allow me to go to that Genisa
    sultana latifa a Jewish refugee from Egypt

  • Interesting, but not surprising. There have been recent claims that the Pathans — the ethnic group from which the Taliban primarily sprang — have Jewish origins:

    Pathans As the Descendants
    of the Lost Tribes of Israel

    One subject of the Lost Tribes which has generally been ignored which I found to be personally fascinating are the tribe of the Pathans.

    The people of Pathans now number 15 million people living mainly in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as in Persia and India. They have a tradition of being of the Lost Tribes and have Israeli customs.

    The Pathans have custom of circumcision on the 8th day. This is a known Jewish custom, and is the oldest Jewish tradition. I myself witnessed and was present at a very joyous circumcision ceremony on the 8th day after birth. Muslims have custom of circumcision but it is not on the 8th day, and usually at the age of 12.

    The Pathans have a sort of small Tallit called Kafan. This is a 4 cornered garment which they tie strings similar to the fringes (Jews call them Tzitzit) and is one of the oldest Jewish traditions going back to the Torah and it is a sign of their Israeli origin. They also have bigger Tallit which they call Joy-Namaz. It is a garment 2-3 meters sq., and it is made to cover the head and part of the shoulders, and is used for prayer by spreading on the ground in the Muslim fashion. It has no fringes.

    The Pathans have custom of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is considered a day of rest and they do not labor, cook or bake. The Pathans prepare 12 Hallot (traditional Jewish bread, Leviticus 24:5) in honor of the Sabbath as was done in the ancient temple. One of the significant indicators proving the Israeli origins of the Pathans is the lighting of the candle to honor the Sabbath. After lighting, the candle is covered usually by a large basket. The candle is lit by a woman past her menopause.

    see also:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

Point of No Return

Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

One-stop blog on the Middle East's
forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.